University of Akron sophomore Steve Zakuani, one of three finalists for the prestigious Hermann Trophy award, has signed a contract with Generation adidas and will forgo his final two years of eligibility to enter the 2009 MLS SuperDraft.
A native of London, England, Zakuani led the nation in scoring this past season with 20 goals and 47 points in 23 games. He will be the first Akron underclassman to leave school early to pursue a professional career in any sport.
"I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Akron and I'm glad to be leaving with so many special memories," Zakuani said. "I was made to feel welcome from day one by my coaches, teammates, the athletics staff and especially the fans. They all made my time here a very special one and contributed to making me the player and person I am today.
"Those are the reasons that made the decision to leave a truly difficult one. However, my dream has always been to play professional soccer and so when this great opportunity came knocking on my door, it was almost impossible for me to turn it down. I feel that the time is right for me to make the natural progression to the next level and I am excited about my future."
Generation adidas is a joint venture between Major League Soccer and U.S. Soccer aimed at raising the level of young soccer talent in the United States. The program, which was called Project-40 until 2005, encourages early entry (without college graduation) of players into MLS.
Generation adidas players do not count against the MLS senior roster. Entering the program automatically classifies a player as a professional and thus, disqualifies them from playing college soccer. As a result, Generation adidas players are also guaranteed scholarships to continue their college education should their professional career not pan out.
The Seattle Sounders own the rights to the No. 1 pick in the 2009 MLS SuperDraft, which will be held on Jan. 15 in St. Louis, Mo.